Communities

1 Jul

(Last minute post for blogging carnival is last minute.)

Communities have made a huge impact in my life, but, for a long time, were not something I (thought I) needed.

I discovered that other people used the word asexual when I was in my early teens, and I didn’t actively attempt to get back into any asexual community until I graduated from college and entered graduate school, a span of about five or six years.

During this gap, I wasn’t really in any community. I had my friends from school, and a couple of friends I met online. There were one or two attempts to get into the asexual community, but they were mostly half-hearted. I lurked some on AVEN but found the “explanation” pages more useful than the forums, and my experiences with the forums were either hurtful or unhelpful.

My set of friends wasn’t particularly sex-focused, so I didn’t really feel out of place or pressured with most of them most of the time, even though I wasn’t out to most of them and don’t usually come out to people I meet offline. But eventually I … wanted to see how everyone else was getting along. “Everyone” being people in the asexual continuum. Also, I was getting older. Wondering more about dating, about life beyond school. And feeling kind of lonely.

Plus, I was in a new fandom, in a community that encouraged discussion between members, unlike the one previous fandom I had been in. Also unlike my previous fandom, this one features predominately queer pairings, and most of the people I know through that community are also queer. There are even a few other asexual people. It was nice, being in an environment that not only featured a lot of queer narratives but also had people who were queer, concerned about queer issues and occasionally discussed them within the community. (Not to mention everyone being geeks about the same thing.)

It made me want that for myself. Or, it made me want that more narrowly — it made me want what many of my new friends and acquaintances had. People who understood the places they were coming from, the concerns and questions they had, the ways that they felt they didn’t fit into society at large.

What I was looking for in a community was basically what I wanted in friends, or in a good English class, or a mix of both, I guess. A comfort level high enough for me to actually speak out and add my voice to the conversation, and spaces where you could have a mix of personal conversation without it erasing the possibility for a focused discussion on a topic (as I found the AVEN forums to oftentimes do). And a place small enough or organized enough that I could speak to people one-on-one. On blogs, this is easy, on Tumblr, you can kind of do it through reblogging. On forums like AVEN, it’s easier for the more extroverted to overtake and direct the conversation… which is not a place an introvert like me prefers to be.

Through reading blogs and starting my own, and then joining Tumblr, I found exactly the right places for me — though I’m still getting comfortable with Tumblr (seriously, I have no idea what to post about there). I don’t know anyone particularly closely yet, but I hope that someday I do. And starting out blogging about asexuality led me to new, positive resources on being neutrois, which has definitely changed my life by helping me feel better about my gender identity and my prospects for transition.

Communities have made me more comfortable and confident with myself. They’ve given me new vocabulary, and the ability to use it, and new ideas for representing people like myself (or are somewhere in or near the asexual continuum) in my writing, which is extremely important to me, because writing is as big a part of my identity as my asexuality is.

Without communities, I would also see the hate poured onto people on the asexual spectrum without seeing anyone rise up against it. There is a lot of stuff on Tumblr that is anti-ace, sometimes virulently so, and if I was just watching the asexual tag, I would probably only see that stuff. But since I follow individuals as well as the tag… I get to see the other people, like me, who are offended, and hurt, and scared, and angered by these things.

Communities — the right communities, anyway — give me somewhere safe to go when I am afraid. From people who dislike me, refuse to understand me, or outright hate me. Or just when I’m thinking about the future, or I’m having problems. They give me somewhere to talk about who I am, and to learn about other people. I’ve been able to explore and share my own identity more because communities have given me the words to express it.

Something I should note, too, is that I was specifically looking for a community, and I would say I’ve found two. There are the blogs I read, link to, and comment on, and there’s Tumblr. There’s some overlap there, but they’re two distinct communities, partially because of the medium they’re in.

Last semester I was reading a paper about how libraries serve transgender people, and the writers of the paper gave an explanation about their terminology. They said that after interviewing the transgender population of the city, they saw that there were many communities out there, and that they served different people in different ways and provided different things. This sounds obvious, but it was important enough to be specifically explained in this paper to explain why the authors used the phrase “transgender communities” instead of “transgender community.” I’ve carried that around with me since, and I like it as a reminder.

I think it’s very easy to refer to the asexual community, or the queer community, or any other group of people in the singular. Even if you are aware that people who could be grouped together are actually very different, that tendency is still there. I did it in this post and had to go back to edit, even though I knew I was going to make this point at the end.

What I’ve seen from people who don’t understand asexuality, demisexuality, or gray-sexuality — or rather, those who don’t understand and don’t particularly want to listen to our communities’ understanding of it — is often an attempt to label us all as one community, or an attempt to define what our inner communities must be. There’s a tendency to view AVEN as the only place asexuals gather, or to try to divide ourselves along romantic orientation more than we do, or in a different way than we tend to 00 from what I’ve seen, people mostly talk about aromanticism and romanticism, not homo- vs. pan- vs. bi- vs. hetero- vs. etc. romanticism, which is something I’ve seen lots of non-asexual continuum people do.

I think it’s important to remember that in any group of people, there’s more than one community. There is no one asexual community. We have many communities, and many areas of discussion, and I think those are building up to have more places for more people to find the things they need. That might be a place to make cake jokes or somewhere they can find fandom-oriented discussions. But there’s more than one place, and that’s important, because no one place can be what all people need.

What I hope to do with my blog, and maybe some with my Tumblr, is to add a voice to the other asexual voices out there. I wanted to be part of the asexual blogging community because the asexual blogging community was something that had been such a comfort to me, even when everything I read was sad. Maybe some day I’ll be an important part of someone else’s community. Someone who helped another person.

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